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Zed Key turns game for Brentwood

Zed Key, right, congratulates Bryce Harris after he

Zed Key, right, congratulates Bryce Harris after he drained a shot to close the third quarter of Nassau-Suffolk Challenge against Baldwin at Uniondale. Key had 13 points and eight rebounds. Credit: James Escher

Key is both his name and his address.

Brentwood’s 6-8 sophomore Zed Key resides in the paint whenever he can and it was there that he made, yes, the key plays in the final minute of Saturday’s game against Baldwin.

Battling for position down low as he had all afternoon against the stifling Bruins’ defense, Key took an entry pass, pivoted in traffic and delivered a bounce pass to fellow sophomore Alan Houston for a tiebreaking layup. Seconds later, Key clinched it with a breakaway two-hand slam as Brentwood outlasted Baldwin, 46-42, in a high-energy, low-offense contest that was part of the annual Nassau-Suffolk Challenge at Uniondale.

“I saw the triple-team. Alan cut to the basket and he converted,” Key said.

It was a redeeming culmination to a frustrating game for Key, who had 13 points and eight rebounds, but missed nearly all of the second quarter when he picked up his second foul. “It was pretty frustrating having to watch,” Key said, “but my man Alan came through.”

Houston, a 6-7 reserve, took up residence in Key’s low-post neighborhood. He scored 14 points, eight in the second quarter. “I finally got a chance to shine a little bit and show what I can do,” Houston said. “I go against Zed in practice every day. That makes me a better player.”

Of his clutch basket Houston said, “I was just in the right place at the right time.”

The Indians (8-4) could say the same thing. They have lost four close games late, with a lineup that includes three sophomore starters and one freshman. One of those sophomores, point guard Kenny Lazo, scored seven points, but more importantly, hustled for nine rebounds despite being only 5-10, and had five assists.

“I used the analogy in practice this week that we’re like a plane,” Brentwood coach Anthony Jimenez said. “There will be turbulence, but don’t panic. We’ll reach altitude.”

Baldwin’s trapping defense created the turbulence, forcing numerous turnovers that prevented Brentwood from exploiting its frontcourt height advantage. Nasim Cylin, at 6-3, was especially impressive, registering a double-double (19 points, 10 rebounds). Cylin scored eight points in the third quarter when the Bruins (6-5) took their first lead at 28-26 with 5:03 left, on Jordan Jackson’s three-pointer.

Brentwood trailed 31-26 entering the fourth, but two free throws by Key, a fast-break layup by Bryce Harris on Lazo’s long outlet pass and a baseline jumper by Houston put the Indians ahead, 40-38. Peter Bateman’s baseline jumper tied it at 40 with 1:48 left but Baldwin did not score again.

“Our size and strength is our identity,” Jimenez said. “This win is a boost for our confidence.”

Thanks to a Key that was, finally, unlocked.

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